U.S. Air Force using airborne lasers as high-speed, wireless data links

Air Force jets and drones could soon send high-quality video and audio of the battlefield wirelessly using high-bandwidth lasers.

U.S. Air Force jets and drones could soon send high-quality video and audio of the battlefield wirelessly using high-bandwidth lasers.

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research says it has conducted experiments to transmit data optically, without interference, across long distances up to 22 miles.

That's a big deal because transmission of information through turbulence distorts it, researcher David Hughes of the Air Force Research Laboratory said.

"[It's] just like the information coming from the light reflected off a distant, twinkling star to your eye. It's fuzzy," Hughes said in a statement. "You have to overcome that by using adaptive optics to rectify the distortion and get a better quality signal."

Hughes and his team have conducted high data-rate experiments using an optical laser link, a tool which "exploits the quantum noise of light for higher security."

That translates to easier military access to real-time intelligence data from manned and unmanned airborne platforms.

The Register (UK) writes of the security potential, too:

The idea is to use a laser beam through the air to carry information optically in the same way that sending light down fibre works. In the case of fibre, it's possible to send information - for instance encryption keys - coded as individual photons, quanta of light. Any attempt to intercept such info would by definition involve changing it, meaning that any eavesdropping would surely be detected. Thus quantum methods might offer better security.

The Air Force is working with AOptix Technologies, a developer of ultra-high bandwidth laser communication, on the project.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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